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Choosing the Best Assist Gases for Fiber and CO2 Laser Cutting

Gases / Industries / Insights

The metal cutting industry is a four-billion-dollar market that serves technology, defense, aerospace, automotive, and manufacturing, with growth exploding 50 percent between 2015 and 2019. One of the most efficient ways to cut metal is through fiber and CO2 laser cutting, an industry that itself is increasing at a steady trajectory for the foreseeable future. The draw of CO2 laser cutting is that it offers increased precision, high-quality products, incredibly efficiency, and minimal downtime while conserving energy.

Rocky Mountain Air Solutions caters to the CO2 and fiber laser market in a unique way through distributing the high purity assist gases that make precision possible: oxygen, nitrogen, and argon. Assist gases are chosen based on the thickness of the material and the chemical reaction that will occur when atmospheric gases meet metal. Choosing the appropriate assist gas based on the type of metal is vital to making the perfect cut.


1. Oxygen

When it comes to steel cutting, oxygen is the preferred assist gas to get the job done. Laser cutting with oxygen creates an exothermic reaction, burning the material while heat and light create additional energy. Due to the nature of laser cutting, an appropriate amount of power must be administered to ensure that too much burning does not generate a deficient cut. Because oxygen does 60 percent of the work in support of the laser, cutting speed is slowed down, especially when used on thinner pieces of steel. For applications that don’t require high quality edges, oxygen will finish the product with iron oxidized edges and be the most cost effective.


2. Nitrogen

High pressure nitrogen is most commonly used to cut stainless steel and aluminum no matter the thickness. The inert gas is preferred for these materials because it cuts without causing oxidation, which leads to rusting, ensuring high quality edges. As a shielding gas, nitrogen halts the burning process, instead vaporizing material for a clean cut using high pressures. It is the preferred assist gas for the majority of applications in the laser cutting market.


3. Argon

Used on rare occasions, argon is the most expensive option and can often be substituted for nitrogen to perform similar cut qualities. However, for metals like titanium that are highly chemically reactive to nitrogen, the additional expense for argon is necessary. As a non-reactive assist gas, argon has the highest comparative heat to oxygen and nitrogen, meaning it also cools at an even more rapid pace.


Expert Advice on Assist Gases

At Rocky Mountain Air Solutions, our experts are available to offer their expertise regarding the importance of assist gas purity with laser cutting applications. We provide high purity gases that will contribute to the overall efficiency and precision of your laser cutting applications, free from contaminants that could lead to deficient cuts or less than desirable edge work. As a partner of PurityPlus, our reliable assist gases are tested and certified for such contaminants before they are placed in the hands of the customer.

Contact your local branch today for questions regarding fiber and CO2 laser applications and the appropriate assist gases to ensure the best possible performance for your business. We look forward to serving you!

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